By Ron Leir
Medals will be given to veterans, a Civil War battle will be reenacted and a film about doctors on the battlefields will be screened.
And it will all be part of what Public Affairs Commissioner Steven Rogers is calling the “first annual Nutley Veterans Day Celebration,” slated for Sunday, Nov. 10.
The public is invited to the event, which will run from 1:30 to 5 p.m. at the historic Kingsland Manor, 3 Kingsland St. Visitors are also welcome to tour the manor building during that time.
“It is an honor to work with Dorothy Greengrove, president of the Historic Restoration Trust of Nutley, and her staff on such an important day,” Rogers said. “Our department has a great partnership with the Kingsland Manor.”
A highlight of the day’s events will happen at 2 p.m. when Rogers will present Distinguished Service Medals from his department to World War II veterans who live in the township. Rogers credited Henry DelTosto, president of the Nutley Veterans Council, with coming up with the idea for a township-issued medal.
Rogers said he consulted with his executive assistant Courtney Johnson, a Marine veteran who served in Iraq, and DelTosto to fine-tune a design for the Nutley medal, inscribed with the words, “Honoring veterans who proudly served Nutley,” on the front and an image of an eagle – the national bird – on the reverse.
Each medal is attached to a ribbon with a pattern of maroon and gray (reflecting the Maroon Raiders school uniform colors) that each veteran can wear around his or her neck.
K&K Trophy Mart of Lyndhurst is providing the medals at $6 each, Rogers said.
As of last week, the Public Affairs Department’s Military & Veterans Affairs Bureau had identified 15 residents who served during WW II, according to Johnson. A survey of township residents many months ago turned up more than 900 local veterans – of whom 30 were listed as WWII veterans – but since then, some have relocated and others have passed away, Johnson said.
While the New Jersey Department of Military and Veterans Affairs does periodically present its own Distinguished Service citations to servicemen and women, Rogers said that the intent here was to recognize local veterans, not only for their military contributions, but also for their service to fellow veterans and the community at large at home.
“Those are things not listed by the military in their citations,” Rogers said. “We want to recognize their service to Nutley.”
In giving these medals, Rogers said that the township didn’t require any prior authorization from state or federal military authorities “because we’re the ones issuing them.”
“We give medals to athletes and other people for distinguished service,” Rogers added. “I think it’s good to add veterans. And I’ll be presenting them on behalf of the people of Nutley.”
Veterans of WWII are being singled out for this honor now, in light of the fact that the nation is losing more and more servicemen and women of that era every year, Rogers said. In fact, The National WWII Museum, based in New Orleans, reckons that, “By 2036 … there will be no living veterans of World War II left ….”
In future years, Rogers said, the hope is to honor veterans of other wars with similar medals.
But in the meantime, as another facet of the Nov. 10 celebration, the Nutley Veterans Council will present its annual “Veteran of the Year” award to lifelong Nutley resident Dan Marese, a World War II veteran who serves as deputy director of the local Military and Veterans Affairs Bureau. He’s also a township health investigator.
Marese, who was a mason and longtime employee of Essex Chemical as a civilian, has been an active volunteer, locally and around the state, particularly on behalf of special children and adults. He helped lead the Amvets drive for funds dedicated to the refurbishment of Nutley’s WWII monument and all other local war monuments. He’s also coached Nutley Little League Football and served with the Old Guard, VFW, AARP, Third Half Club and Our Lady of Mt. Carmel Church.
Currently, Marese has been leading fundraising efforts on behalf of St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital for youngsters with cancer and other diseases. His granddaughter is a St. Jude survivor.
As for the activities centered in and around the Kingsland Manor, which dates from the late 1700s, Greengrove said the manor will host the continuous playing of a documentary film, “Patriots to Heroes,” focusing on the role played by physicians in various wars involving U.S. troops.
Greengrove said the film is being loaned to the Kingsland Trust by Dr. Ligaya Prystowsky, a local ophthalmologist with a keen interest in medical history.
Also, for military history enthusiasts, members of the 2nd Rhode Island Infantry, Company B will undertake a reenactment of a battle that occurred in the War Between the States and will also display some period armaments.
The Trust will provide tours of the manor, a brownstone center hall colonial. According to the Trust website, the original property reportedly dates from the 1600s and was acquired in the 1790s by its namesake, Joseph Kingsland, who enlarged it to accommodate a family of 11 and servants by providing “17 rooms, 2 kitchens, ballroom, slave prison, slaughter house, smoke house and underground Indian raid cellar,” among other things.
Kingsland, a Tory with strong loyalties to the King, left the New World for Nova Scotia where he stayed until the end of the Revolutionary War when he re-settled in New York where he ran a lumber yard and harvested the forests of New Jersey along the Third River, shipping the timber on sloops down the Passaic River.
In 1918, the Nutley property was acquired by the McGinity family. Daniel McGinity, a fight promoter, used the property as a training camp for boxers like three-division champion Bob Fitzsimmons. Dan’s son Bernard “Bus” ran a speakeasy in the manor’s basement during Prohibition, then as a legal club until the license was revoked, then as a convalescent home.
After a sheriff’s sale in 1938, the manor passed through various owners until 1973 when the township used a Green Acres grant to buy it and formed the Trust which, aided by detailed drawings by architects hired by the U.S. Dept. of the Interior in 1935, undertook extensive renovations of the building, including relocating dormers, rebuilding chimneys, repairing the roof, replacing doors and windows, repointing stone work, landscaping and restoring brick walkways.
And the building’s interior was made into a museum, restoring the kitchen’s old fireplace and beehive oven and pot warmer; refinishing a dining room fireplace; removing modern paneling and replastering walls and ceiling in the dining room; rediscovering and preserving silhouettes painted by Bus McGinity depicting the life of George Washington and recreating the Kingsland mill office with family memorabilia; refurbishing the ballroom with its working Mason Hamilton organ circa 1904 and square grand piano; and restoring upstairs bedrooms, installing an exhibition of Kingsland family artifacts.